Arsenal Finally Win And Planet Earth Is Saved!

Online Editorial: Three precious points secured at St Mary’s

Arsenal Finally Win And Planet Earth Is Saved!

Mesut Ozil: Fun in the south coast sun?

A friend sent me a link to a tweet before the match against Southampton. It stated that Hector Bellerin had pledged to plant 3,000 trees for every Arsenal win for the remainder of the season. I responded to the effect that the planet was doomed.

And then what happens? Arsenal go and actually win a football match. And at Southampton of all places, a venue they have often struggled at. The starting line-up was an eyebrow raiser, with Guendouzi disappearing completely from the picture, not even on the bench. I am uncertain that Arteta is impressed by his inability to avoid getting drawn into personal arguments with opposition players, and the hot-headedness of some of his actions. Eddie Nketiah replaced Alex Lacazette and both Kieran Tierney and a fit-again Granit Xhaka returned to the first eleven. It was a boiling hot afternoon, with many of the subs using umbrellas to protect themselves from the blistering sun.

When Aubameyang hit the bar early on, you began to wonder if this team is cursed in some way. He really should have scored, given the angle and for the most part Arsenal created more danger in front of goal. It was interesting to see some long forward passes to test the Saints’ defensive pace, especially down their right hand side, not a tactic we have often seen with Gunners’ sides since the days of Ian Wright. After 19 minutes, a grade one howler from the Saints keeper allowed Eddie Nketiah a tap-in. Given the weather, at times, it looked like the opposition were on the beach already, 10 points clear of the relegation positions, surely safe.

They came alive more after the interval and the introduction of Shane Long, creating a lot more danger. Tierney’s withdrawal due to injury was a concern, given his history since joining and indeed before, so let’s hope it wasn’t a bad one. Pepe was also withdrawn with a knock, and when Ainsley Maitland-Niles came on for Ceballos in the last part of the game, the formation changed to a back five, and the team looked better for it. It will be interesting to see whether Arteta explores this option when tougher matches arrive, and if so, it would certainly restrict opportunities for Ozil to re-establish himself even further.

A late red card for the Saints led to Arsenal’s second goal, after Lacazette’s free kick rebounded and fell to Joe Willock. It was encouraging to see two youngsters on the scoresheet, because make no mistake, they are going to be key to the club’s short-term and probably long-term future. The noises around Bukayo Saka committing to an extension are highly encouraging. Let us hope a deal is completed. Certainly, it is clear to the player how highly he is valued by the head coach.

This win on the south coast should have followed another last weekend at Brighton, given the number of opportunities to score there, but at least, psychologically, it is a starting point for the remainder of this behind closed doors conclusion to the season. Arsenal did generally play well, and it will be fascinating to see how they perform against Sheffield United in the FA Cup quarter final next. A win there and against Norwich would at least see them in better shape as the sequence of fixtures get tougher afterwards.

There is still a sense of unreality about the matches in stadiums with just those directly connected with the clubs and medical personnel present. Arsenal will be putting fans’ flags in the upper tiers for their matches at the Emirates, a symbolic gesture, but good luck spotting yours on TV. However, the players seem to be playing with appropriate intensity, given the bad fouls and red cards. One simply hopes that it will be possible to re-introduce crowds as early as possible into next season, because there is no debate that the spectacle lacks the intensity of the pre COVID-19 era.

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comments

  1. Rob M

    Jun 27, 2020, 9:48 #116894

    Some positives to take from the game but also further confirmations of who will be part of the plan going forward and who has one foot or two in the departure lounge despite our opponents glaring lack of quality. We should keep our feet firmly planted. This is not a yardstick to gauge anything from. Blooding Saka in the top flight with a year plus one on his contract could well be another defining error from our senior executives if the young man decides his career prospects are better served elsewhere. We await the outcome of this one. I am very concerned about Bellerin’s performance. Directionless, panicked and nervous. I didn’t see him carry the ball over the halfway line when space was there to exploit. I would be heavily critical of Pepe’s involvement but considering the formers lack of endeavour down the right flank I think judgement should be reserved this time. Is Auba missing chances evidence of a decline? I’d sell him. And Laca who looks so frustrated. Central midfield for me is where any investment should happen. One tackle from Xhaka, too many intercepted passes. Pace in the channels not exploited by a lack of creativity. Anyone think Mesut will leave in order to play the sport he is so richly rewarded for being gifted at? Let’s hope Sheffield’s run of form continues on Sunday.

  2. John F

    Jun 26, 2020, 18:53 #116893

    I liked the look of Tierney and Saka on the left and Holding played well.I thought the declaration of love by Arteta towards Sak a was worrying .We have heard this sort of statement a few times when the manager is worried about losing a player.He will be a player that other more successful clubs will be looking at and his agent will be whispering in his ear to consider them.I really rate him and he is one of the few players we cannot afford to lose.

  3. Don Howe

    Jun 26, 2020, 15:46 #116892

    When the football was coming back, we were told that some games would be "free to air" in order to provide life giving juices to the bored stay at home sports fan. Well predictably it has been the games like Burnley v Watford that have been on and dull fare they are. Nevertheless there is no reason why the EPL should have done this so let's not be ungrateful. Troy Deeney and his castanets. Such fun. What I am ungrateful for is the canned crowd noise. I would much rather watch the game without it. It reminds me of the old days watching Rocky and Merse in the football combination at Highbury. A simple inexpensive pleasure. Instead we have Mezut Ozil and canned crown noise. 3 points makes us feel better, but George Graham in charge would make us a LOT better.